Back in June of 1997, with much publicity, Disney owned ABC
Television launched their big news site ABCnews.com. It's run by another
Disney division, Starwave. I visited their site at:
and was intrigued by a button labeled "click here to win a free hat". It's almost a Pavlovian response on the Web to click on anything labeled "free" so I found my hand involuntarily moving the mouse toward the button and clicking. It took me to the page:
Which prompted me to write the following e-mail to the folks at ABCnews.com:
I began to take your survey this morning after being lured to click on a button titled "win a free hat". I stopped after I read that I could win "One of Ten Hats". You have got to be kidding. You all launch a multi-million dollar Web news effort and you are giving away a grand total of TEN hats. Those TEN hats probably set you back a big twenty, twenty-five dollars total! Is ABC/DISNEY/STARWAVE that strapped for cash that you all have no money for a decent prize? Maybe it's this Southern Baptist boycott of ABC that has you worried? I really don't think you need to be concerned, it will all blow over.
I think you all have started a first class effort. But come on, loosen up the old purse strings and put up a decent premium for filling out that long form. If not you will end up with a lot of folks just heading over to www.cnn.com
Almost instantaneously I got an e-mail back:
At 05:05 AM 6/24/97 -0700, you wrote:
>Tue, 24 Jun 1997 05:05:27
>Thanks for the frank advice. We're always doing our best to improve
ABC News.Com and we take all criticism seriously. If you can't listen
to your readers, who can you listen to?
>A computer generated this response. But fear not--an actual person
did, in fact, read your mail.
You say: "But fear not--an actual person did, in fact, read your mail." I sent this e-mail at 5:00AM in the morning. I received your response two minutes later. Do you really have people there at five o'clock in the morning reading the e-mail that comes in? I find that hard to believe. Perhaps a more true final line on your computer generated response would be:
"But fear not--an actual person may, just may, read your mail after spending an hour on the subway standing next to a foul smelling guy with food stuck in his beard, and only after drinking two cups of coffee, scanning the POST for the latest Frank Gifford transcripts, while ruminating on how the hell they can get out of this 'go nowhere' job of reading e-mail sent in by idiots who have nothing better to do than cruise the Internet at five o'clock in the morning and send in stupid comments."
If this e-mail is actually read by a real flesh-and-blood human being please send me a return e-mail with the code word "rosebud" so I know you are for real.
Of course two minutes after I sent this I received the same canned computer response. No code word "rosebud". The day after I sent the message the link on the index page to the survey an offer for a free hat was gone.
I'm still waiting for my free ABCNews.com hat
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March 10, 2002
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